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  • Writer's picturekwankew

From Manila to Miri, Sarawak

This morning I went to feed the cat and the kittens before walking to the National Museum which had a whole section on the retrieved treasures of the ship San Diego. I did not find that interesting. I meant to feed the cats lunch but I was late in getting a cab to the airport so I had to abandon the idea.

Miri is a small town in Sarawak, a cross road for travelers to either travel to Brunei or Mulu of Sarawak. Sarawak on the island of Borneo was one of the new states that joined Malaya in 1963 along with Sabah, Brunei and Singapore to form Malaysia. Then Indonesia claimed Sarawak while Philippines claimed Sabah which resulted in a lot of tension in the area. Eventually Brunei wisely pulled out keeping its oil for itself and Singapore became an independent country two years later. There continues to be some tension around Sabah but not Sarawak. British explorer James Brooke successfully stopped a rebellion by the local Dayaks of Sarawak against the Sultan of Brunei and in 1841 was granted the title of Rajah of Sarawak. Thus this began a succession of White Rajahs of Sarawak. This ended with the invasion by the Japanese during World War II a century later and the British eventually took control.

Miri from the Air

I had made arrangement for a cab from the hotel to receive me which was fortunate because today being Chinese New Year’s eve, there was hardly any waiting cabs in front of the airport. Rose a Filipino, struck up a conversation with me while I was in the airport in Manila. She worked in Brunei as a hairdresser as she was paid much better there.

When we arrived at Miri, she found herself stranded in the airport having missed her bus to Brunei. My cab driver kindly took her in and dropped her at a guesthouse for the night. He was in a hurry to get to his Chinese New Year’s eve dinner celebration. When I went out to get dinner, I happened to pass by the guesthouse and found that she was still standing outside with her suitcases. The hotel proprietor was out probably celebrating. I could not take her to my hotel as the owner was out as well. We went to a big shopping mall to change money but the money changers closed for the day. We did find her a place to stay and a kind Filipino man to change money for her. She felt safe there because there were a few Filipinos staying there. The ATM machine claimed my card was broken so I could not get any Malaysian ringgit but fortunately I had some money from my last visit two years ago. We had dinner together and she was grateful that she met me that night. The rice was Nasi Lemak, coconut rice with pandan (the juice of fragrant screwpine leaves), absolutely heavenly.

Just shortly before midnight, The Chinese ushered in the year of the Horse. Fire crackers popped up everywhere and firework displays as well. I was not in bed yet and was quite sure that the loud din would have woken up any sound sleeper. I found a note on my door knob from Mrs. Lee, the hotel owner wishing me: Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy Chinese New Year).

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